Seven hundred thousand people are licensed or registered to sell investment products and services in the U.S. They claim to be ethical investment experts who are capable of producing exceptional investment returns. They make these claims because they know this is what investors want to hear when they select financial advisors. They believe they have to make these claims or investors will select someone else to be their advisors.
Seventy-Five percent of these self-purported experts do not hold registrations that permit them to provide financial advice. They hold licenses that limit them to selling investment products for commissions. They do not disclose this important fact to investors because financial advisors face less sales resistance when they sell investment products.
Following are a few tips that will help investors select real advisors and avoid sales representatives who masquerade as advisors.
Make sure the professional is a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) or an Investment Advisor representative (IAR). IARs are registered with RIAs. These registrations permit advisors to provide investment advice and ongoing financial services.
By law, RIAs and IARs are fiduciaries. A fiduciary is someone who holds a position of trust. In this case, fiduciaries are also held to the highest ethical standards in the financial services industry. Ask the advisor to acknowledge his fiduciary status in writing.
Investors should pay financial advisors fees the same way they pay other professionals, CPAs and attorneys, they depend on for specialized knowledge, advice, and services. Only RIAs and IARs can be paid with fees.
High quality advisors have nothing to hide, consequently they have no problem providing full disclosure for their credentials, ethics, and business practices. Lower quality advisors withhold information that may cause investors to reject their sales recommendations. Make sure all disclosures are in writing so investors have a permanent record of what was said to them.
Financial advisors have compliance records that are found on the FINRA.org and SEC.gov websites. These databases display investor, company, and regulatory agency complaints that have been lodged against advisors. Investors should limit their selections to advisors who have clean compliance records.